From Here to Sheboygan
The day’s work was done, Sheila wrapped up her materials, put her hairbrush and wallet into her bag and turned off her computer. “I’m on my way Andy,” she said to her project partner as she continued to wrap up her things. She tied her shoulder-length auburn hair into a ponytail that she could flip to the top of her head and pulled down her winter hat complete with stylish but very warm ear flaps. Andy turned to her, “I have about 1 more hour on this analysis segment, it looks like the snow is really coming down out there, so be careful making your way to the parking garage.” Sheila answered, “thanks, good thing I brought the bigger boots, I will be fine.” As she was pushing her chair in, Andy gave her a smile and nod and telling her to “drive safely.” Sheila acknowledged another safety warning and as she walked away Andy followed her a bit with his eyes, noting to himself what a pleasant girl Sheila was, from her helpful attitude every day, right down to her sweet little face and attractive figure.
A brisk wind hit Sheila’s face as she opened the door to the snow-filled sidewalk. When the temperature was just below freezing as it was today, she never got tired of a snow-filled sky, and the beautiful white coating on the trees and signposts that you couldn’t even read with their fresh frosty coating. Sheila could tell by the blowing snow and how the streets were quickly filling that her normal drive from Fond Du Lac to Sheboygan would be quite a bit more than the usual 57 minutes. She had driven in this type of weather many times and she had a dependable vehicle, but she knew when it was time to be patient and drive carefully.
As she warmed up her Ford 150 pick-up, she noticed a man over by his car with the hood up and walking back and forth from the car seat and back to looking under the hood. There was no sound of even the engine turning over much less starting up. Sheila lowered her window, “having troubles?” she asked. The man was a short man wrapped up in a heavy coat that hung down to his knees and a Green Bay Packer stocking cap pulled down over his ears. “It won’t start,” came the predictable reply from the man as he walked over to Sheila’s window, “do you need a jump?” she asked. As the man came over Sheila could see that he was an older man with grey hair pushing down from the sides and front of the Packer hat. “I have tried that,” he said, “I am afraid that I am having trouble with the starter again. There is a Shell station garage right up there on 67 and they have fixed this problem before. I called them, and they will have a delay getting over here to fix it or even tow it to the station, so I guess I will just wait for them.” The man seemed to be a bit chilled as he was batting his thick winter gloves together and stomping his boots as they were talking. “I’m going up onto 67 and I can take you up to the garage if that will help,” said Sheila. “Hey, that would be great the man answered, let me get my bookbag in case I have a long time to wait at the station.”
The door clicked open and the man sat in the seat holding his bag on his lap. Sheila pulled out of the garage and made her way to ramp for Route 67. “I really appreciate this,” the man said as he took off his hat. As she pulled away from the light, she wondered why he would take his hat off if he would be getting out of the car within minutes. Her feelings of concern turned to panic as the man pulled a long-bladed knife out of his bag and held it within inches of Sheila’s side, “keep going up this ramp to go East on 67.” The scowl on the man’s face and the blade showed Sheila that he meant business as her truck moved easily through the snow and up onto the highway. “I will not hurt you if you just do as I ask,” as this demand was made, they were just pulling past a police car. The man pushed the knife closer to the girl and said, “easy now, no bright lights or horn or anything unusual or you will get hurt.” Sheila heard the warning loud and clear and she steadied her drive through the snow. Her truck had snow tires and 4- wheel drive so driving in the snow came naturally to her, but she was terrified by his actions and had fight her fear to concentrate on driving. She tried to think clearly before she said anything, but anxiety led her to the first obvious question. “Where do you need to go,” she asked hoping she could just drop him off somewhere and this would all be over with. “Just keep driving,” he said, we have a couple of deliveries to make between here and Sheboygan and you are going to be my Uber driver. I see that you have plenty of gas, there will be 4 total stops and we will be done, just do as I tell you and go where we need to go, and you won’t get hurt.” “Where is your cell phone,” he asked. “In the side pocket by me,” she answered. “Reach down and grab it and give it to me,” she grabbed it and thought for a second about throwing it at his head, but that was only for a second because that knife was close and looked very sharp. He took the cell phone and clicked the off button and put it in the glove compartment. Although Sheila felt frightened to look at him directly, from the side vision she saw his scruffy grey beard and a smallish face with a tiny nose and lips and what should be a childish look replaced with a scowl that portrayed his rotten disposition.
Sheila thought that it would be best not to ask any more questions, but the biggest question in her mind was his request that brought out, ‘from here to Sheboygan.’ Did he know that I lived there and that was where I was going? I have never seen him before, so was he just setting this up for anybody that came into the garage? Sheila decided that if he did not know, there may be some advantage to here knowledge of locations and people in Sheboygan, so she would keep that to herself. The next question that she would not ask is, what was going to be delivered and what was in that bag? She thought at once that drug dealing was the most obvious illegal activity that required drop offs, but right now the knife made the most significant statement and it gave her a good reason to keep her questions to herself.
The man spoke up, “ok you’re doing great, our first stop is Greenbush and you will be taking the next exit.” Sheila knew Greenbush and she had been there a couple times. She had no idea why this small city was important, but she kept her cool and followed directions. “OK, now make the next right and pull into the parking lot at Greenbush Town Hall.” Sheila knew that the town hall was closed by now but again she kept silent. She pulled into the Town Hall parking lot, “go around to the back, slowly,” he said. There was a black van in the back lot, “pull about 10 feet from that van,” again she followed his direction. As she looked through the trees, she could see the high brick garage that she recognized as the Greenbush Fire Department. When she stopped her car, the man pulled out handcuffs from his bag and cuffed both of her hands to the steering wheel. Then he took out a lock bar that attached to the steering wheel so that it was frozen in place. “Now you sit tight, no actions of any kind and I will be right back.” Then he took the bag and went over to the van. Sheila looked again at the fire department through the trees and she calculated her risk and what she could do as an alert. Honking the horn would put her in too much danger so she abandoned that thought right away. When she saw him get into the back of the van for whatever transaction was happening, she took a chance. She could reach the signal arm with her cuffed left hand, so she pushed it forward and backward 3 times for her brights to blink and hopefully be noticed by someone at the fire department. She looked and saw no activity at the building and now she could just hope that someone inside the building had seen her signal.
The man came back to her pick-up with his bag and released the bar from the wheel and uncuffed Sheila. “Go back up to 67 and keep heading east,” he said, holding the knife to her side as before. “Before we leave,” he brought the knife to her throat and made a short slicing motion that brought a drop of blood to the surface of her neck. “If you try something like that flashing lights stunt again, you are going to get hurt, do we understand each other?” “Yes,” she said, as her breathing became irregular and she felt her heart beating faster realizing that she had put her life in danger with that move. She drove back up onto 67 where it was no longer snowing, and her truck could easily handle the 4 inches or so that had fallen but had not yet been plowed. They had gone about 8 miles down the road and Sheila felt bold enough to speak, “for your info my name is Sheila, how should I address you,” she thought that putting a type of human element in place was the best thing to do, although he was certainly on a mission and no amount of conversation seemed likely to change that direction. She glanced over and saw his questioned look as if he was wondering what false name, he should give her. “Call me Smith,” he said. Sheila answered, “ok Smith, where are we going next?” as she accepted the name he made up and tried to appear less fearful, although the truth was after feeling the piercing tip of that blade and his willingness to use it, her insides were still churning with fear. “Take exit 38 just before Plymouth.” He was all business and it seemed there would be no conversation for whatever good it would make. Just direct orders and directions for his nefarious meetings.
She turned off on exit 38 and the first sign on her right said, “Old Plank Road Trailhead.” “Take a right and head for the Trailhead and you will be making a left when you see a sign for the “Ice Age Trail.” Sheila followed the directions and soon they were at an empty lot for the trail. She had been to this very trail when she was about 9 or 10 years old. She remembers hiking on the trail with her Dad and having a picnic lunch with bottled water, ham sandwiches and potato chips. She remembered those details from a springtime about 20 years ago, but it was a great memory and one of many wonderful times that she spent with her dad enjoying the Wisconsin countryside. Her thoughts turned to wondering what this man was peddling from his bag. When they turned around a stand of trees, she saw another black van and that looked very ominous to her fearing the cuff and lock procedure that was bound to happen. This time the procedure was to be a bit different. “Put on your hat, you're coming with me, I don’t trust you out here,” Smith told her to open her door and then pushed her out the door nudging her shoulder and he grabbed the bag while still holding the knife in his right hand. A man dressed completely in black with a winter hat with a face mask (also black), came out of the van. “I see you brought some extras,” he said with a rough sounding laugh, “never mind,” said Smith, “this is my driver, let's get this over with.”
The man in black opened the side door of the van and as Smith kept a strong grip on Sheila, he gently set the bag into the open van and told the man in black, “the agreement is 4 ounces and that means 2 ampules and 2 only, let me see you take them out and secure them and then we will be on our way, I have already confirmed the money transfer.” Smith turned Shella away from the truck, still holding her firmly as the transaction was completed. “Ok, it’s all secured,” said the mysterious customer, “but you haven’t introduced me to your driver,” the man quickly put his arm around Sheila, pulled her away from Smith and attempted to pull her closer to his body. Smith jumped to one side of Sheila and brought his knife-wielding right hand around her side and plunged it into the left arm of the man in black. It was a quick stab and the pain registered immediately as he let go of Sheila and fell back against the van. “You try something like that again and this knife will be in your gut.” The man was holding his injured arm with his other hand, putting pressure on the area where he had been stabbed. Smith turned to Sheila, “you standstill now,” after that display she was afraid to blink much less make any attempt to escape. He grabbed his bag from the van and closed the side door. He wiped the blood off the knife on the man’s shoulder and then pointed it in his face and said sarcastically, “I will be sure to tell Bronco about your cooperation.” He grabbed Sheila by the arm, and they went back to her truck. “Go back up onto 67 East,” he said with a rough and angry voice. Sheila felt relieved that the man in black had been halted from his advances, but it was no time to express thanks or do anything but drive back up onto 67.
Nothing was said for about 6 miles and Smith seemed to still be fuming over the incident at the last drop off. He broke the silence, “have you ever been to Lost Woods Park in Kohler?” “Once,” she lied, “do you want to go in the north or south entrance?” Smith seemed surprised but somewhat pleased with her basic knowledge of the area and showing his first hint of a smile he told her, “the North entrance closest to Route 67.” Now they were getting into an area that Sheila was very familiar with, she was somewhat reassured by the protection that he had extended at the last stop, but she was still thinking about how she could use the familiar location to her advantage. She was also frightened about what menacing surprises could be awaiting them at the next delivery location. Knowing this area, Sheila also knew that the upcoming drop off location would be the furthest from route 67 that they will have traveled up to this point. She wasn’t sure if that was advantageous or just coincidental because she knew the way by heart. She had been to Lost Woods Park many times and getting there meant going south on Woodland road, but she decided to let Smith call the directions to give the impression that she was just as lost as the namesake of that popular park.
When they got to the exit that Sheila knew would lead to Woodland Road, she didn’t slow down until Smith said, “go right at exit 54 and go south on Woodland road.” The snow had stopped about 2 hours earlier and the plows had already started to make progress in clearing the roads. Woodland Road was clear, and they were at the entrance to Lost Woods Park in about 15 minutes since leaving the expressway. The entrance had also been cleared and Sheila drove right into the familiar park. Smith (or whatever his real name was), looked over at Sheila and seemed to wear a human-like expression for the first time since the deliveries started. “That jerk that tried to attack you will be very sorry he ever did that, his boss will be hearing from me and he won’t be happy about that nonsense,” he said. Shella felt a little more comfortable so she spoke quietly, “is this almost over?”, she asked. “One more stop after this one and you will be on your way.” Sheila sensed a change of heart in her captor, but she knew that it would be a mistake to do or say anything that could change his demeanor in a heartbeat.
Again, an ominous black van and the order from Smith to park 10 feet from the vehicle. “Best, to leave you in here,” he said pulling out the handcuffs and the lock bar for the steering wheel. Again, she was secured to his satisfaction and he grabbed his bag to go and meet another unscrupulous partner in whatever crime this was. Although it was another man dressed in black, this time things were a bit different, the man opened the side panel of the van and he was not as quiet as the others, and she could hear what was being said even with the windows closed. She put her left ear as close to the window as she could. Although the talk was somewhat garbled, she did hear him mention Deland Park. That was a park that was very close to her home in Sheboygan and not far from her boyfriend Steve. As they were much closer to Sheboygan now the thought of Steve and what he would do to Smith if he got his hands on him filled her thoughts and kept her thinking and wishing for his intervention in this madness. Steve was an ex-marine and not one to be toyed with. As gentle as he was to Sheila, you could tell by his muscular build and how he carried himself, that he was confident and quite capable of physical dominance if the situation presented itself. Sheila had thought of that before and was tempted to say, “if Steve knew you were doing this, he would beat the shit out of you,” but she knew that would just aggravate this man who had a definite mission to complete. Listening intently again, she finally got a clue to the purpose of all this. They were talking about buildings being blown up and something else that she could not make out, but she did hear the word explosives mentioned at least twice. She thought, my God, I might be an unwilling player in a plot for some type of terrorism. She kept trying to listen, and now she knew more than ever that something needed to be done.
They were having a lengthy conversation and she got an idea. When he attempted to turn off her cell phone, she noticed that he did not look directly at the phone to be sure it was off, but just threw it in her glove compartment. The off button on her phone was very stubborn and many times she thought she had turned it off, but she had to go back to the phone and press and hold it for a couple of seconds to be sure that the button worked as it should. If it was not off, then her dashboard screen in the truck could be used to send a text. The tricky part was turning the screen to the Phone setting and then typing a text. Looking out, she could see they were still talking, and she may have an opportunity. She brought her right foot out of her boot, then slid down in the seat and moved her right leg up to get her foot up to the dash screen. She got it there and hit the Phone button with her big toe. The phone was automatically set for Steve’s phone because that was the call that she made most frequently. Sheila was grateful in a way to see that Steve had tried to call her 6 times, luckily the phone was still on mute from the last meeting she had at work. She was able to bring her foot by one of her hands and pull off her sock. She needed her toes to click in the message she wished to send. She looked up and the men had broken their conversation and Smith was headed back to her truck. She panicked and moved as quickly as she could. She grabbed the sock with her toes and pushed it into the boot and then slipped her foot into the boot and sat back up in her seat. She looked at the screen again and realized that she had not turned off the phone setting. Hear heart was racing now and she fought to keep her mouth shut and not scream in the panic that she felt. He opened the door quickly, grabbed something from the side of the passenger seat and ran back to the black van without even looking at the screen in Sheila’s pick-up. What she did not know was that her captor had slid a revolver with a silencer on the side of the seat. He opened the passenger door of the van and went into the cab. After some yelling, there was a gunshot thud and a flash of light from the side window of the van.
Sheila had no time to think about what would happen next, she slumped down and slid off her boot to pull her leg up to the phone. She was able to use her toes to click in Help – Lost Woods Park now, Deland Park 9pm. She clicked send and then pushed her big toe on the off button. She slipped her foot back into her boot with the sock still in it and sat back up in the seat. Smith came back to her truck and finished wiping his hands on a towel that he then threw into the bag, “son of a bitch,” he said with his voice volume turned up too high and the tone turned to gruff as he threw the bag at his feet and said, “back to highway 67 now,” he screamed. His face was red, and his breathing seemed labored and Sheila knew that if he had any patience at any point, it was now completely gone. The expressway had been cleared of snow and she knew that her timing of 9 pm would be pretty much on the dot regarding arrival at Deland Park, but she could only guess about Smith’s agenda when they got there.
“Pull into the front entrance,” he said. She followed his directions driving through twisting roads and many turns in the park that she knew very well. She made sure not to offer any clues or resistance to his plan by looking around for signs of Steve. He knew her truck, so she hoped he had seen them pull in and her greatest hope was that he was tailing them from a distance. She came to the far end of the Deland Park which was the beach site and waves of Lake Michigan were slashing at the ice structures that always jutted out from the beach at this time of year. There was the usual black van parked right at the beach and she felt as if she would have on-going dreams of that menacing black van from this point forward, (if she does get out of this). “10 feet from the van like always,” he said. She stopped and waited for the cuff and locking routine, but he said, “open your door,” and pushed her out like he had done one time before and with knife and bag in hand he grabbed her and said, “let’s get this done,” and they walked over to the van.
You could hear the waves lapping up against the ice and the lower overall rolling sound portrayed the power of this wonderful body of water that had been Sheila’s back yard for 12 years now. Another sound they both heard was laughing and clinking of bottles and they could see a group of 3 people walking down the beach, drinking and in coats and hats, they sounded like a group on in a summer jaunt down the beachside. The transaction had happened quickly at the van but hearing the group coming their way Smith put his hand up to keep the man inside the van until the group passed. He grabbed Sheila’s hand as if they were a couple on the beach enjoying the winter moonlight. They were about 5 feet from the van now walking as if they were just passing by the vehicle. The trio of beach drinkers walked by still laughing and not seeming interested in either the van or the couple walking on the beach.
They walked past Smith and Sheila and the person in the middle of the group turned quickly, rushed Smith, grabbed his head and pulled him back away from Sheila laying him flat on the beach. Sheila saw that it was Steve and yelled “knife!” as Smith jumped up and reached to stab his attacker. Hand to hand combat was no problem for Steve and soon the man was lying on the beach with a broken right arm and his knife in two pieces on the frozen sand. “The van Steve,” yelled Sheila as she pointed to the driver’s window that had rolled open and a rifle appeared aimed directly at Steve. Steve wasn’t sure what to expect based on Sheila’s text message, but he came prepared and expected the worst. He dropped to his knees and pulled a Kimber 1911 pistol from his back belt, his shot sounded like a small cannon, but did not compare to the huge explosion that quickly engulfed the van in flames. Steve and all present were surprised by the blast.
He looked at Sheila and grabbed her into his arms, “he was delivering small vials of explosives Steve, they talked about blowing up buildings and who knows what else,” she could finally cry openly from the ordeal and she put her head on Steve’s shoulder and did just that. Steve brushed his hands through her hair and then put his hat on her, “I will call intelligence and get them the info they need. You have done what was needed to stop this guy dolly and now you are safe.” Steve kept his gun trained on the injured man lying on the frozen beach as he held Sheila closely and the black paint dripped down from the burning van.